Michael Fox presented two talks for Vanderbilt’s Center for Matrix Biology

Michael Fox, Ph.D.

Michael Fox, Ph.D.

Michael Fox, an associate professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, delivered two talks at the Center for Matrix Biology at the Vanderbilt School of Medicine.

Fox’s first talk—titled “What are the Spatial and Temporal Mechanisms of Axon Targeting?”—focused on how neurons from the retina and visual cortex connect to the brain in a highly coordinated manner but at different times during development. Early research indicates that retinal neurons release a molecule that inhibits cortical axons from prematurely connecting to the brain, revealing a molecular mechanism by which one class of axons coordinates the temporal targeting of another class of axons.

In his second talk—titled “Once an Axon Finds a Target, What Makes It Transform into an Appropriate Synaptic Structure?”—Fox discussed trans-synaptic organizing cues that pass between synaptic partners to properly form synapses. Much of our current understanding of how nerve cells make the correct connections within the brain comes from studies at the neuromuscular junction. At these sites, target-derived growth factors, extracellular matrix molecules, and fragments of those molecules known as matricryptins are essential to the formation and maintenance of motor nerve terminals. According to recent studies, it also appears that matricryptins—particularly one called endostatin that is generated by cerebellar Purkinje cells—are vital to the formation of synapses. More specifically, results indicate that endostatin organizes the climbing fiber terminals onto neurons. The studies have also shown that endostatin alone is sufficient to induce climbing fiber terminal formation in vitro.

The Center for Matrix Biology is an interdepartmental group of several dozen members from multiple departments whose research involves different aspects of biology of the extracellular matrices. By connecting disciplines such as biomaterials, wound repair, diabetic complications, and tumor microenvironment, the center seeks to foster cohesive interactions to facilitate collaborations and to promote excellence in matrix research.